“Towards a delivery-driven and quality education system”Thank you for coming to this media briefing on the results of the Annual National Assessments (ANA) for 2011. These tests were written in February 2011 in the context of our concerted efforts to deliver an improved quality of basic education.
It was our intention to release the results on 29 April 2011, at the start of the new financial year, so that we could give ourselves, provinces, districts and schools ample time to analyse them carefully and take remedial steps as and where necessary. Preparing for this was a mammoth task and there were inevitable delays.
We have taken an unprecedented step in the history of South Africa to test, for the very first time, nearly 6 million children on their literacy and numeracy skills in tests that have been set nationally.
This is a huge undertaking but one that is absolutely necessary to ensure we can assess what needs to be done in order to ascertain that all our learners fulfil their academic and human potential.
ANA results for 2011 inform us of many things, but in particular, that the education sector at all levels needs to focus even more on its core business – quality learning and teaching.
We’re conscious of the formidable challenges facing us. The TIMMS and PIRLS international assessments over the past decade have pointed to difficulties with the quality of literacy and numeracy in our schools.
Our own systemic assessments in 2001 and 2004 have revealed low levels of literacy and numeracy in primary schools.
The Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) results of 2007 have shown some improvements in reading since 2003, but not in maths.
This is worrying precisely because the critical skills of literacy and numeracy are fundamental to further education and achievement in the worlds of both education and work. Many of our learners lack proper foundations in literacy and numeracy and so they struggle to progress in the system and into post-school education and training.
This is unacceptable for a nation whose democratic promise included that of education and skills development, particularly in a global world that celebrates the knowledge society and places a premium on the ability to work skilfully with words, images and numbers.
Historically, as a country and an education system, we have relied on measuring the performance of learners at the end of schooling, after twelve years. This does not allow us to comprehend deeply enough what goes on lower down in the system on a year by year basis.
Purpose of ANA
Our purpose in conducting and reporting publicly on Annual National Assessments is to continuously measure, at the primary school level, the performance of individual learners and that of classes, schools, districts, provinces and of course, of the country as a whole.
We insist on making ANA results public so that parents, schools and communities can act positively on the information, well aware of areas deserving of attention in the education of their children. The ANA results of 2011 will be our benchmark.
We will analyse and use these results to identify areas of weakness that call for improvement with regard to what learners can do and what they cannot.
For example, where assessments indicate that learners battle with fractions, we must empower our teachers to teach fractions. When our assessments show that children do not read at the level they ought to do, then we need to revisit our reading strategies.
While the ANA results inform us about individual learner performance, they also inform us about how the sector as a whole is functioning.
Going forward, ANA results will enable us to measure the impact of specific programmes and interventions to improve literacy and numeracy.
Administration of ANA
The administration of the ANA was a massive intervention. We can appreciate the scale of it when we compare the matric process involving approximately 600 000 learners with that of the ANA, which has involved nearly 6 million.
There were administrative hiccups but we will correct the stumbling blocks and continue to improve its administration.
The administration of the ANA uncovered problems within specific districts not only in terms of gaps in human and material resources, but also in terms of the support offered to schools by district officials.
ANA results for 2011
Before conducting the ANA, we said we needed to have a clear picture of the health of our public education system – positive or negative – so that we can address the weaknesses that they uncover. This we can now provide.
The results for 2011 are as follows:In Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy, stands at 35%. In Numeracy our learners are performing at an average of 28%. Provincial performance in these two areas is between 19% and 43%, the highest being the Western Cape, and the lowest being Mpumalanga.
In Grade 6, the national average performance in Languages is 28%. For Mathematics, the average performance is 30%. Provincial performance in these two areas ranges between 20% and 41%, the highest being the Western Cape, and the lowest being Mpumalanga.
In terms of the different levels of performance, in Grade 3, 47% of learners achieved above 35% in Literacy, and 34% of learners achieved above 35% in numeracy.
In the case of Grade 6, 30% of learners achieved above 35% in Languages, and 31% of learners achieved above 35% in Mathematics.
This performance is something that we expected given the poor performance of South African learners in recent international and local assessments. But now we have our own benchmarks against which we can set targets and move forward.
Together we must ensure that schools work and that quality teaching and learning takes place.
We must ensure that our children attend school every day, learn how to read and write, count and calculate, reason and debate.
Working together we can do more to create a delivery-driven quality basic education system. Only this way can we bring within reach the overarching goal of an improved quality of basic education.
Improving the quality of basic education, broadening access, achieving equity in the best interest of all children are preconditions for realising South Africa’s human resources development goals and a better life for all.
I thank you.
Read the full Statement and some reactions to this statement:
Statement by the Western Cape Education Department
News report by the Mail and Guardian Online
Statement by the largest teacher union SADTU
Statement by the official opposition